There’s another chance to voice opinion on the Windy Gap proposal
President of the Colorado River Headwaters Chapter of Trout Unlimited
The second round of Windy Gap Firming Project public hearings has begun.
This time it is the Colorado Wildlife Commission who will be holding public meetings in Granby and Loveland to hear concerns from the public on the potential impacts of the proposed Windy Gap Firming Project, especially those impacts not adequately addressed in the project’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) submitted to the Bureau of Reclamation in December 2009.
The first public hearing will be held in Loveland on Oct. 13 and the second hearing will be here in Grand County at 6 p.m. at the Inn at SilverCreek on Thursday Oct. 21.
The Wildlife Commission is the Board of Directors that set policy for the Colorado Division of Wildlife.
This Board is comprised of Colorado citizens who are appointed by the governor.
Their job is to protect Colorado’s precious fish, wildlife and natural resources and they need help from Grand County citizens and Front Range water users to understand fully the current and likely future impacts of the Windy Gap Firming Project on our river ecosystems and our community.
The Wildlife Commission will give the citizens of Grand County an opportunity to address fellow citizens of Colorado who value our resources as much as we do.
I encourage you all to attend, stand and voice your concerns on the Windy Gap Firming Project, one of the most important issues that Grand County will face in our lifetime.
Comments should focus on specific impacts currently observed in the Upper Colorado River and Grand Lake and how additional diversions might further increase these impacts.
Comments will be similar to those brought forth during public hearings last December with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The short list looks like this:
• Grand Lake: An additional 30,000 acre feet being pumped from Windy Gap into Granby Reservoir will be an additional 30,000 acre feet being pumped through Grand Lake.
Grand Lake already has problems with lake clarity and algae. These problems are directly related to pumping rates and increased pumping will exacerbate these already existing problems.
• Flushing Flows: The Colorado River below the Windy Gap Reservoir receives 450 acre feet of flushing flow from the existing Windy Gap agreement. The inability of these minimal flushing flows to remove sediment from gravel beds where has led to the almost complete disappearance of the stone fly hatch and the modeled sculpin. Without abundant stone fly and sculpin populations, over time trout populations are also likely to decline. In addition, these heavy sediment deposits also interrupt the reproductive cycle for the trout by smothering the spawning beds.
• Base Line Flows: Taking more water out of the Colorado River below Windy Gap will increase the duration of low flows in the river. Low flows during warm summer months increase stream temperatures, having profound effects on fish. Stream temperatures that exceed the State’s acceptable levels are already observed. By increasing the duration of low flows as this project proposes, we will most likely continue to see increases in stream temperatures over longer periods of time that threaten to kill fish. We need to demand baseline flows that protect the river from high temperatures.
• Weed and Algae Growth: Weeds and algae remove from the river critical oxygen that sustains fish. The excessive weed and algae growth visible today will only subside if there is an increase in the amount of water moving through the river during critical periods throughout the spring and summer to provide adequate flushing flows and baseline flows.
• Economy: Grand County’s economy is based on tourism and recreation. Without healthy rivers and lakes we will lose a very important part of that economy. The State of Colorado also relies heavily on the recreation and tourism provided by healthy Colorado rivers and lakes and can’t afford to recklessly sacrifice these places. We need to put in place proper mitigation that protects our rivers and economy.
• Conservation: Current diversions already remove 60 percent of the Colorado River’s native flows. The expansion of Windy Gap will remove an additional 20 percent of the river’s water, pumping every drop to homes and businesses to northern Front Range cities. Unfortunately, most of these cities like Broomfield and Loveland are not doing enough to conserve. They have rate structures that are “flat” and encourage waste. As a result, over 50 percent of the water used by these residents sustains thirsty outdoor irrigation. Before we ask a river to survive on less than a quarter of its native flows, we need to ask ourselves if we are doing all we can to conserve this precious resource.
• Adaptive Management: Previous decisions that govern when and how much water is diverted through Windy Gap have fallen short of protecting the health of the Upper Colorado River and Grand Lake. We fear that the mitigation measures proposed for this project will likely lead to the same fate. Knowing “adaptive management,” the Wildlife Commission must require water providers to commit to ongoing monitoring and a process that allows for changes to the amount and timing of water withdrawals if we find that the Colorado River and Grand Lake ecosystems begin to crash.
To help ensure a bright future for our children and grandchildren in Grand County, come to the Inn at SilverCreek on the 21st and speak up so that the Wildlife Commission understands what’s at stake and how important this issue is to Grand County residents.
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